Sugar-free dessert: Yes, it can be done (deliciously)

One of my favourite things about New York is that whatever your particular dietary preference or challenge, you can find a stylish restaurant, bakery and brunch spot, at the very least, that seems designed for you alone. On a recent visit, I found Babycakes NYC. This sweetly stylish vegan, gluten-, dairy- and refined sugar-free bakery (beloved by Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel) serves up light, fluffy, moist cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, brownies and macaroons. For a person who has long forsaken the joys of a chocolate cupcake with creamy vanilla frosting (not me, I’ll confess, but my fellow), it’s quite a revelation.

Unfortunately, the bakery won’t deliver to Canada (something about frosting melting in the customs line), but now its founder, Erin McKenna, has shared her secrets in a recipe book (Clarkson Potter, $28)!

I assigned our office’s best gluten-free baker, assistant fashion editor Jordan Porter, to food testing (with the FASHION staff as judges, of course). She good-naturedly produced chocolate-chip cookies and vanilla cupcakes on her first outings, sweetened with things like agave and applesauce (all were pronounced delicious at 3 p.m. snack hour). She reported that fair-to-good baking skills and expensive, somewhat hard-to-find supplies are required, but that the instructions are clear and there’s a handy directory explaining what substitutions you can and can’t make, and why.

The next test: Apple cinnamon toastie bread.

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